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Alipay had a 53.7 per cent share of the mobile payments market in the first quarter of 2017, according to data from Analysys. Photo: Xinhua

Alibaba and Tencent kick off cashless payment promotions


China’s two biggest mobile payment providers are going head to head this week, providing lavish incentives to attract users as they try to promote the concept of a cashless society.

Alipay, the world’s largest mobile payment platform affiliated with Alibaba Group, owner of the South China Morning Post, is offering cash rebates of up to 4,888 yuan for the use of its mobile app to make payments between August 1 and 8, as well as the chance to own a share in 18.888 kg of gold with other users.

For the first three days of the promotion, residents in Hangzhou and Wuhan, the first two Chinese cities identified by Alipay as models for the cashless society notion, will also be able to take buses free of charge up to 12 times by scanning the app.

Those who use it to pay for their bus rides for the whole week of the promotion will be eligible for lucky draws for red packages containing cash worth between 8.8 yuan and 888 yuan.

Meanwhile, rival Tencent’s WeChat Pay is offering its own cashless promotions during the same period.

The number of offline merchants participating in Tencent’s “cashless day” promotion reached 700,000 in 2016, up 80,000 from its inception the previous year, according to the company.

This year, WeChat Pay users will accumulate cash rebates for payments between August 1 and 7 which are then valid for a one-off spending day on August 8. It will also offer random discounts on WeChat payments, ranging between 5 yuan and 88 yuan.

Other benefits being offered by the Shenzhen-based technology company including red packages containing cash and coupons for shopping and dining at designated merchants.

As the two major mobile payment methods in China, Alipay and Tencent have been competing fiercely in both the domestic and overseas markets. Data from Beijing-based research agency Analysys showed that Alipay had a 53.7 per cent share of the market in the first quarter of 2017, compared with Tencent’s 39.5 per cent.

In mid-July, American technology giant Apple launched its first-ever large-scale promotion for users of its Apple Pay mobile service in mainland China. It remains a small player even though it has been active in the market for almost a year and a half.

The popularity of mobile payments has greatly changed daily lives in China. Fourteen per cent of Chinese people do not even carry cash nowadays, while 26 per cent take less than 100 yuan around with them day to day, according to a survey co-released by Ipsos and Tencent on Monday.

The survey indicated that younger people tend to carry less cash than older ones.

More than 84 per cent of respondents said they are happy without cash on them, as long as they have their smartphones.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Alipay, WeChat in cashless drive